When Guu Izakaya came to the city a couple years ago, I was a seafood neophyte. Actually, I was more a seafood-phobic than anything. (I think watching The Little Mermaid one too many times as a child led to my distaste for the taste of anything from the sea.) However, last summer I was dragged to the Japanese restaurant on Church Street by the sometimes lovely Jacqueline Nicosia (events manager at Notable.ca), and forced to swallow down jellyfish and octopus. I didn’t care for it…then.
Fast-forward about a year and I’ve eaten and tasted many of Ariel’s best friends, always humming ‘Part of Your World’ in my head as I digest. Thus, when Ms. Nicks requested a review of the original Guu location (not the Annex’s Sakabar), I of course asked the, this time lovely, Jackie Frog Legs to join.
If you’ve never gone to Guu, you’re likely part of a small populace. It’s an energetic spot, woody all round, lots cafeteria-style communal tables, and it’s loud…very, very loud. This time round I ordered up a sake mojito to start, and after five minutes of fiddling with the Japanese pop bottle to pour in the soda part, my thirst was quenched and we were ready to dig in. (I say we, of course, because anyone who dines with me can attest to the fact that I’m a diva-in-training and if something in my world is out of place, it’s out of place in my company’s realm as well.)
We went through about eight dishes, starting with the gomaae (blanched spinach with black sesame sauce), a favourite dish because of it’s simplicity and the mix of crunch, wilted leaves, and sweet and saltiness. Next up we noshed on the kaki furai, six deep-fried oysters accompanied by three different sauces. Interestingly enough, my flavour preference was the lemon and salt. Basic but perfect.
The salmon natto yukke (chopped salmon with ‘seven friends’) sounded great, and when it arrived it was a gorgeous little plate. However(!), our server grabbed up two spoons and started whipping together the fish and it’s accompanying friends – an assortment of chopped vegetables egg yolk – and turned this pretty little ditty into a pile of…well, think pink salmon, egg yolk, brown bits, yellow bits, and the like all mixed together and you have an idea of what bodily function this could be associated with where the word ‘projectile’ might be a good fit.
Sitting at the bar, Chef Hiro brought us a couple extra dishes – such a nice fellow – the best of which was the thinly sliced seared tuna with chopped cucumber and a sweet and sour sauce. Pretty presentation, pretty tasty.
My favourite Guu Izakaya dish has to be the deep-fried brie with mango and blueberry sauce. Likely because I’m a fatty at heart and deep-fried cheese is akin to heaven for me. When you go to Guu, order it. And I’ll even toss in a preemptive you’re welcome for the reco.
Guu Izakaya is frenetic. There’s an energy that is highly contagious and the vibe is pure eclectic fun. It’s a VTV fave, and we can’t wait to head back. Find it at 398 Church Street, and be prepared to wait in line any night you arrive after 6:30pm. (And if that’s the case eat in advance, you’ll potentially be waiting an hour or so…)
Guu Izakaya | 398 Church Street, Toronto | guu-izakaya.com/toronto